When Mr. B and I explored Kauai 14 years ago this week, we had the good fortune to come across the Taro Festival in Hanalei. I pounded poi, we observed local culture, and we enjoyed our fair share of local treats. As we planned our trip this year, Mr. B looked high and low for the old festival, but it wasn't listed on any events calendars he could find, nor did the Kauai Visitors Bureau know anything about it.
Last week, as we were cruising through Hanalei, I spotted a sign advertising the "Kalo Festival" slated for this weekend. Just that morning, I had been reading a children's book printed in both English and Hawaiian and had learned kalo is Hawaiian for taro. Taro, or kalo, is one of the original plants brought to the islands by Polynesian explorers. Its root is harvested, boiled, cleaned then mashed to form a paste that is used in a variety of foods. It is served as paste with meats, or used in everything from breads to desserts.
So while hundreds of tourists flocked into Hanalei town for the party that is Saturday morning farmers' market, we continued down the road with the locals for Waipa Foundation's Kalo Festival. The low-key event included samples of kalo in its various forms, student artwork, and lots of information about the plant, its history, its propogation and uses. We arrived early enough to help prepare the kalo for poi pounding, and by taking part in the entire process felt honored to be welcomed into the activity.
We also talked to lots of locals, and learned some valuable information: the giant toads we've been seeing are called "bufo" or cane toads and their skin is covered in toxin; the kissing/chirping sound we've been hearing at night is created by our friendly house geckos. See what we'd miss if we didn't talk to strangers?
One of the things I've really noticed this time about Kauai is the sense of family here. In Kauai, there's a lot of talk about the 'ohana (family), both immediate and the 'ohana (or more properly the hui) of the residents as a whole. Here, elders are addressed not as sir and ma'am or Mr. and Mrs., but auntie and uncle.(My heart melted last week when a local little girl addressed me as auntie.) And at a local event, with so many people calling each other with this familiar term of respect, I felt warm and welcome and wonderful.
Then came the master of ceremonies - what a tragic choice. Sure, Bu La'ia, a Hawaiian comedian, was funny at times, but typically at the expense of the tourists, specifically white people. His jokes were cutting and ruthless. Knowing the history of the islands, indeed indigenous people around the globe, the jokes were understandable. But as the hours wore on, we found ourselves steering clear of the area when the MC hit the stage. His bashing of the American government wasn't helpful either. And his language was unfit for the family audience. Having seldom been on the receiving end of such racist behavior, it was, if nothing else, educational. Through what he felt was comedy, Mr. B and I were made to feel completely unwelcome and were, ultimately, driven from the event. (I'm not sure the girls even caught his meaning, thanks to his use of language they've never heard combined with pidgin.) Sure, we could have stayed. But the beach called, and it was much more welcoming - and less expensive.
On to Hanalei Bay, then, but not before a stop for shave ice in Hanalei. Just enough sugar to give us the umph we needed for some good times on the beach. The girls really loved that they could go so far from shore and still touch bottom. The tiny flying silver fish were a treat, too. And I took a swim down the bay to Hanalei Pier for some exercise and to take a leap off the historic pier. (For classic movie buffs, you may recall it from "South Pacific.") The girls found some great shells, but they were still inhabited so left them behind in sand castles they built for their new-found mollusk friends.
We returned to The Shack before dark (gasp!) to enjoy barbecued BLTs, breadfruit and random leftovers from this week's feeding frenzy and family movie night featuring the 1978 version of "The Hobbit."